MLS must change designated player rule

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:24 PM ET

Working with the confusing, and often times wacky roster restrictions and rules of Major League Soccer has been a challenge for Toronto FC director of soccer Mo Johnston.

But the league’s latest legislation, allowing teams up to three Designated Player spots has opened the door for potential savvy and creative roster building.

On paper, the opportunities are intriguing. TFC, being one of the league’s few profitable teams, makes this city a prime destination for possible high-priced players.

Better players, better team. Right?

Not necessarily.

The resulting salary-cap hits make fielding a balanced team with upwards of three designated players virtually impossible. Teams with too many big-money players are punished in MLS — designated players or not. TFC has one DP, and that’s Dwayne De Rosario, with a price tag of the $425,000.

Any general manager spending upwards of a million dollars of cap space on just three players, while the other 17 roster players combined making a shade over a $1.5 million, would be hard pressed fielding a competitive side.

Under the new rules, each designated player takes up $335,000 of salary-cap space. The salary cap presently sits at $2.55 million. If a DP is signed during the secondary transfer window that opens July 15, the player takes up $167,000 of cap space.

Will teams jump at the possibility of adding quality to their rosters through additional DP spots? Maybe. History suggests not. Los Angeles (post-Beckham) and New York are obvious players. But once again, it all depends on the cap.

If the league was serious about bringing in more name-worthy talent from abroad, the DP spots wouldn’t count against the cap at all.

So in practice, the way the new DP rule is being applied suggests the spots make more sense to be used on current high-profile players within MLS.

MLS doesn’t want to continue losing talent to the Nether-regions of Europe because of salary limitations. So if a player is deemed worth upwards of $400,000 or more, it makes sense to use a DP spot on that player and save cap space.

Cue TFC and De Rosario.

De Rosario is one of the few players in MLS worth significant dollars but not an ideal fit for the designated player billing. Same goes for Shalrie Joseph and Chad Marshall.

Johnston already has thrown water on the flames suggesting Toronto is in the market for another DP, and specifically shot down the idea of De Rosario becoming a DP. Truth be told, Johnston would have traded away a DP spot to create cap space if it were allowed.

And if it’s cap flexibility the team needs, convincing the league to make De Rosario a designated player could do just that.

The idea goes like this: TFC gives De Rosario a DP tag, pays him more money and gets more cap space back in return. Making DeRo a DP would hypothetically save the team $90,000 against the cap, and if done so after July 15th, it would save the team significantly more.

It doesn’t matter whether Johnston believes DeRo is worth the money or not. The tangible benefit is undeniable, allowing Johnston to afford players he would otherwise not be able to.

The league would of course have to approve such a move. Also, the circumstances of De Rosario’s guaranteed contract would also have to be resolved.

Still, it’s intriguing, especially considering Johnston’s under pressure to produce a winner.

gareth.wheeler@suntv.canoe.ca


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